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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Carving Out Time

by Hellen Riebold

A year ago next month I gave up a job I really enjoyed in order to concentrate on my writing. The idea was that I would treat the writing like a ‘proper job’ and spend a set number of hours a day locked away at home getting my story finished. I took this decision, with my wonderful, understanding husband’s support, and, for the most part, it has worked really well.
 
Over this past year I have completed, not one but, two books, one of which we have published while the other is still with agents. I have learnt so much, not just about writing but about publishing and marketing and, most joyously, just how supportive and welcoming the writing community is.
 
It has been difficult, during the year, to remember I cannot just say yes to all the fun invites to shopping trips and coffee I get from friends and family. I make sure I get up when my husband leaves for work so I don’t sleep the mornings away, although I have to admit to allowing myself breakfast in bed on quite a number of occasions.  I have had to train myself to turn off the TV and retreat into my office to work, after all just how many wrecks of homes can you watch getting new windows, bathrooms and kitchens and then painted magnolia all for less than ten grand? (Really? How?). I have learned to ignore the phone in the mornings, telling myself if I was out at work it would have to wait till I got home and, no matter how much they beg, the dogs have to wait for their walk until I have finished my allotted hours, even if the Sun is shining. But lately one thing has got me beat.
 
Christmas!
 
How do you dedicate three hours of every day shut away in your office writing when there are 34 presents to buy, wrap and distribute, 107 cards to write and post, the house to decorate, a tree to buy, the food to organise… Shall I go on? My office is currently home to a selection of bags filled with presents, wrapped and unwrapped, an assortment of tissue paper, bows, scissors, ribbons and gift bags, not to mention the endless unfinished home-made gifts I thought I’d have loads of time to complete.  Now that we are almost there another two complications loom on the horizon too  – Christmas parties and children’s Nativity plays (I really do need to make sure any new friends don’t have children!).
 
Now I could get stressed and freak out but actually Christmas is my very favourite time of year, I love the silly films, the egg-nog and mulled wine, the delicious food, I even like the endless cookery shows on TV showing you how to make it all from scratch, they tend to make me giggle. I delight in all those Nativities and usually cry at each and every one and as for the Christmas parties, who wouldn’t want to go and watch normally sensible people let their hair down and have fun? No, when it comes to writing, the Christmas compromise is just a step too far so this is what I have decided to do.
 
Take December off!
 
I do, after all, have a very understanding boss. I am also realistic enough to know I am not going to winning a Pulitzer prize anytime soon.  So I have decided that if I get any writing done in December that will be a bonus but I am going to put my efforts into Christmas and put my carving skill to use on the turkey. I’ll probably then make a New Year’s resolution to get back into the writing which actually solves two problems doesn’t it? I think they call that a win-win, will let you know if it works.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Never “Meet” your Heroes

by Anna Buttimore

My favourite radio show (Simon Mayo on Radio 2) has a book club. Every two weeks they interview an author and invite listeners to read the first chapter on their website. Other listeners, from a pre-selected panel, have already read the book, and give their reviews. It's fascinating to find out how the writers go about researching and structuring their books (a recent featured author was Conn Igguldon who had been to Mongolia in order to get a feel for the location of his historical epic about Kubla Khan, and found it "very like Wales") and naturally you get to know quite a bit about the authors themselves.

I may be shallow, but it actually matters to me what those authors are like. I want them to be nice people. I was delighted to learn that JK Rowling had donated a vast amount of money to the campaign to find Madeleine McCann because, like the rest of the world, I love Harry Potter, and for some strange reason it mattered to me that the creator of Hogwarts was a nice person. Finding out that Enid Blyton was an adulteress and an uncaring mother has affected my enjoyment of her books, and my likelihood of reading them to my children.

Sir Terry Pratchett seemed to be just as delightfully eccentric and personable as I could have hoped and I read his books with renewed delight. And I liked Anthony Horowitz so much when I listened to his interview that I am suggesting one of his books to my book club. Barbara Taylor Bradford came across as rather aloof and unfriendly, so I won't be going out of my way to buy her books.

The biggest shock, however, was Terry Deary, author of the Horrible Histories books which my middle daughter loves so much she has developed a fascination with history generally. In his interview in Radio Times he was little short of offensive. He was arrogant, objectionable and at one stage dismissed a keen 11-year-old fan saying, "How dare people come to me?" He was scathing about other highly respected historians and writers, and even such venerable and admired institutions as Radio 4 and the nation's schools. Interviewer Rosie Millard, herself a venerable and admired institution, did her best to redeem him by mentioning his charity work, but from what I’d already read I loathed the man so she might just as well not have bothered.

So there are nice authors, and not-so-nice authors, and you really can't tell much about the personality of the writer by reading their book. But I really hope I can be a nice author. It's so distressing and disappointing for fans to discover that someone who had created so much reading pleasure is not deserving of their adulation.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Recycling: Good for the Planet, Good for Authors

by Michelle Cunnah

As I rewrite and edit ruthlessly what I hope will be the sixth book that I sell and have published, I got to thinking about my writing process. And has it changed over the last decade since I sold my first published novel?
 
The answer I had to give myself was no, it has not. The technology has moved on considerably, but I still find ideas and character quirks in the same ways. And characters are of prime importance to me — I love character-driven stories.
 
Some years ago I was chatting to a very famous and successful author in America (I’m not at liberty to say who!), and she told me that she recycles ideas or characters constantly that didn’t originally make it into a published novel, and even some that did. A good tip to any writer: why not reuse something that works for you? I have to confess that I do exactly the same thing.
 
So here is something I wrote a few years ago when we lived in America. Things haven’t changed that much, just the location. And the technology. . .
 
Diary of a Glamorous Writer in Cyberspace
 
Well maybe not so glamorous…
 
6.30 a.m. Monday morning. I’ve already been up for more than an hour because for some strange reason my body clock has adjusted itself and I cannot sleep far beyond 5 a.m. these days (possibly panic due to impending deadline?).
 
In that time I have (a) tidied the downstairs, (b) thrown some disinfectant into the downstairs toilet in my half-hearted quest for germ annihilation, and (c) washed and put away the dishes. Despite the fact that I bribed The Teenagers (as I collectively refer to my two children) to wash the dishes after dinner last night, the dirty crockery pile has once again mysteriously bred like crazy overnight. Where do they come from? Where?
 
I really must get the dishwasher fixed…soon.
 
But whilst in that state of half-awake limbo where actions are performed on autopilot, I have had an epiphany moment for the new book. It will include the theft of garden gnomes, superglue and…dishwashers! I just don’t know the how, yet…
 
I ignore the layer of dust on the hardwood floor and the unvacuumed rugs, and make a mental note to remind The Teenagers about the function of (a) the vacuum cleaner, and (b) dusters.
I wake up The Teenagers, reminding Teenager #2 that yes, he does have to take a shower before school. But, he explains, Teenager #1 is now in the shower and she will be ages and ages.
 
I sigh, and go back downstairs to make tea for myself and for Oh Patient One, my husband. I also make toast. I will eat breakfast whilst checking Internet news sites for interesting stories which I might be able to use in the book, thereby killing two birds with one stone. Excellent plan!
 
Teenager #1 has beaten me to the Internet computer, but at least Teenager #2 will have time for that shower…
 
7.45 a.m. The Teenagers leave for school, but not before we solved the Panic of the Missing Homework (Teenager #2), and the Panic of the I Need a Check for $25 for the School Trip Right Now (Teenager #1). Plus, Teenager #1 doesn’t feel too good. She tells me that she’ll be okay — she doesn’t want to miss school. Oh Patient One kisses me, bids me to write many pages (he lives in hope of early retirement) and trundles off to work.
 
I take my shower and pull on comfy old sweats. No one is going to see me, anyway. I scrape back my still-wet hair, and diligently apply face cream. "Wrinkle" is not a word I want to talk about any time soon…
 
9.30 a.m. 3 pages so far. Hurrah! Today is going to be a good one! Think I’ll just try for one more page before I put a load in the washing machine…oddly, my next scene includes (a) garden gnomes, and (b) a dishwasher. I’m still working on the Superglue Angle…
 
9.35 a.m. Telephone rings. I reach for the wireless phone in my office, but then remember that one of The Teenagers borrowed it a while ago, and it is now lost forever. I dash downstairs to the kitchen phone. It’s a telemarketer, of course.
 
Distracted by bronze donations of fifteen dollars, I remember my earlier intention to check for possible Internet articles. I find an old story about a Mrs. Layne (89), who passed away childless and left her entire estate, worth approximately a million dollars, to her cat Tinker (circa eight). I read another story about a cat that reached the ripe old age of 33. This cheers me enormously, and as I wish Tinker a long and happy life I wonder how I can use it…
 
10.15 a.m. I head back upstairs to work. Two paragraphs later, the telephone rings again. So again, I dash down to the kitchen to answer it because, of course, I forgot to bring it upstairs with me. It is the school nurse. Teenager #1 feels sick and can I collect her right now? Instant feelings of bad-motherly guilt for having let her go to school in the first place. Fortunately, it is winter. This means that all I have to do to make myself presentable is to put a hat over my hair, a long coat over my shabby sweats…and a bit of lipstick on my mouth.
 
11 a.m. Teenager #1 now ensconced on sofa with comforter, pillows, TV remote and hot drink. I am back in my office working on The Superglue Angle.
 
12.30 p.m. Teenager #1 is feeling worse. I call the doctor and, thank goodness, there is a free appointment if we can be there in half an hour. I change my sweats for proper clothes, and bundle Teenager #1 into the car. Doctor diagnoses strep throat. Next stop the pharmacy.
 
2 p.m. Arrive home and apply TLC to Teenager #1, before I go back to work.
 
2.30 p.m. My mother calls me to remind me that it is Mother’s Day in England on Sunday. Why it can’t be Mother’s Day on both sides of the Atlantic at the same time is a mystery to me, but I make a mental note to buy cards.
 
3.15 p.m. There is a knock at my office door, and it is Teenager #2. "What?" I ask him, totally distracted, because I’m right in the middle of a scene. He has brought me a cup of tea. I push my keyboard aside and we chat about his day.
 
4 p.m. Another knock at my office door. Teenager #2 has Jujitsu practice and cannot find a clean outfit to wear…
 
From 5 until 6.30 I devote myself to slapdash domesticity as I (a) transport Teenager #2 to and from dojo, (b) go to the supermarket for luxury items such as bread and milk, (c) call past the garage to pump air into one of my tires...suspect I have a slow flat…
 
8.00 p.m. Dinner is over. Teenager #1 is feeling a bit better, which is good news. Teenager #2 offers to wash dishes, which is lovely. Oh Patient One had his usual busy day at work and is just arriving home. As he eats dinner we chat and catch up on the day, and I whine about my latest sticky plot point. He solves it for me instantly!
 
9.00 p.m. I still haven’t caught up on e-mail, but Teenager #2 is doing vital homework research on the Internet computer and will be at least another hour…at least he’s not playing Internet war games.
 
Oh Patient One and I retire to the living room with a glass of Shiraz, and a Lord of the Rings DVD.
 
10 p.m. Am so tired I cannot keep my eyes open even to watch Orlando Bloom killing Orcs, so Oh Patient One and I retire upstairs.
 
Just as I am on the verge of sleep, I realize that I forgot to buy those Mother’s Day cards. Tomorrow, I’ll do it tomorrow…right after I get the slow flat fixed, and make an appointment to get my dishwasher mended…
 
But in between everything, I wrote ten pages. And I also know how I’m going to solve the Superglue Angle. I also know how Tinker the millionaire cat will fit in…
 
All in all, not a bad day.

Monday, November 26, 2012

SIN Reviewed


by Carlie M A Cullen
 

The Blurb:

Dead, dead, dead. Say it enough times and it becomes just another word. What would you do? Could you kill a killer? Does the death of one appease the deaths of a hundred? What about that hundred against a thousand? What if you had no choice? Meet Sin. No, not that sort of sin, but Sin, crazy as a loon (you ask Sister Moon), and proud of it. Sin locks himself away in an asylum and, every so often, gets violent. That's only so they'll give him those nice drugs, though. The ones that help him forget. It's a pity they don't work. Sin, you see, has a serious problem. Well, it's not so much his problem, as ours - yours, mine and everyone else's. People die around Sin. He doesn't like it and there's nothing he can do about it. But someone else knows, and Sin has to stop them... and himself... Flip and catch...

Review:

This book is written entirely in first person. Allan’s character creation depicts a wacky, troubled man who has a strange problem – people die when he flips and catches a two-pence piece.

Sin, yes it’s a strange name for a character and his parents obviously had a peculiar sense of humour when naming him, finds a two-pence piece when out one day. He flips and catches it and very shortly after, the first incident happens and people die. At first, Sin doesn’t make the connection that he’s responsible, but when he does he tries to get rid of the coin. However, the coin somehow keeps finding its way back into his pocket; no matter how hard he tries to dispose of it (and boy does he try), it always comes back.

As the incidents increase, he has trouble reconciling what he’s capable of, begins to doubt his own sanity and voluntarily commits himself to a mental asylum. Unfortunately, there are people in the institution who actually believe in his ability and they are less than scrupulous, taking advantage of it when he’s under the influence of drugs.

Sin’s sister, Joy, has the opposite ability. When she flips and catches a two-pence piece she found (and can’t get rid of), she brings happiness to those around her. And she has trouble coping with her gift too.

Allan brings his characters to life in a totally unique way. Sin has some quirky ways of saying things, but it just makes him more realistic. He’s weird and you really get right inside his mind, but the author has crafted him in such a way that despite his strange and horrifying ‘talent’, you really start to care about him. You feel his angst as he struggles to deal with the aftermath of each flip and catch of the coin and understand all too clearly why he decides to shut himself away from the world. When he realises he’s been betrayed by the person purporting to want to help him, Sin’s shock and incredulity rolls off the pages, especially when he witnesses innocents being murdered to protect the secret.

The plot is unusual, mysterious and dark yet it races along at quite a pace. It is cleverly written with good use of description. Sin, the character, is larger than life and will stay with you long after you turn the last page.

I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this novel, especially if you want to read something very different and totally unique.

 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Memories

by Natacha Dudley

We do not remember days; we remember moments. ~Cesare Pavese, The Burning Brand


 

One of my favourite books is Remembrance of Things Past (À la recherche du temps perdu). It is a wonderful novel by the French writer Marcel Proust. The underlying theme is “involuntary memory.” What does this mean? For Proust it is the moment when a normal experience involving a sight or a sound, a taste or a scent brings back a memory. In the book this comes from a madeleine. A madeleine is a small cake.

Whilst eating tea soaked cake, a childhood memory of eating tea soaked cake with his aunt is "revealed" to the Narrator. This prompts a rush of other memories - the house where he lived as a child, and his hometown. Throughout the novel, sensations constantly remind him of previous experiences.

Here in the UK, November is a month steeped in the traditions of the past and full of memories.  We gather together for Bonfire Night and Remembrance Sunday.

Of course when I was a child Bonfire Night was just that – one night. One glorious night when we built a bonfire lit sparklers and drank steaming mugs of delicious tomato soup. The memory of tomato soup reminded me of the time when I was living in North London.

In those days I expected November to be noisy because it usually coincided with the beginning of Diwali –the Hindu Festival of Lights.  Diwali (which means row of lights) is a five day festival involving the lighting of lamps filled with oil which represent the victory of good over evil. Families decorate their homes with lights and candles and gifts and sweets are handed out. The festival always ends with lots of fireworks. I remember my local newsagent telling me that his children were getting very expensive. “I said to them, you’ve had Diwali, but no, now they want to have Bonfire Night as well. What can I do?”

I was faced with a similar dilemma this year when my teenage daughter decided to go to a Halloween party dressed as a sexy she-devil. Personally, I’m not all that keen on Halloween (children demanding sweets with menaces) but what can you do? I needed to put my foot down.

Me (sounding suspiciously like my mother) “You are not going out dressed like that!” Daughter (sounding suspiciously like me at her age) “But I’ve got nothing else to wear!” So, anxious not to ruin her childhood memories, I ended up buying her a whole new wardrobe. I blame Proust.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Kindle Select, That is the Question...

by Gary Tinnams

When I published my novel 'Threshold Shift' and short story collection 'Five Byte Stories', I hummed and harred about enrolling them in Kindle Select for about three weeks. For those of you who don't know, Kindle Select is an Amazon service where for 90 days at a time the digital rights of a book can be registered exclusively to Amazon. During this time it can be loaned out for free to Amazon Prime members, like loaning out a book from a library. For every loan the author gets a share of a pot of money set aside that month by Amazon. This doesn't affect sales of your book, (although recently Amazon have announced that to get 70% of profits for sales in India you must be enrolled in Kindle Select otherwise you only get 35% of profits for that region). Also as part of Kindle Select, Amazon offer a five day free book promotional period. The idea being that an author can make their book free for anything up to a five day limited period during the 90 days. (Amazon doesn't allow you to publish free books, but it will price match if you are offering your book for free somewhere else.)
 
Being new to the world of self-publishing my initial thought was to offer 'Five Byte Stories' for free perpetually and put in a sample chapter from 'Threshold Shift' in the hope of enticing readers in. I also wanted to put Threshold Shift into Kindle Select and go for the five day promo. There was my dilemma, by putting a sample chapter in Five Byte Stories I would be breaking the terms and conditions of Kindle select exclusivity if I enrolled Threshold Shift, so in the end I decided to hold fire on publishing Five Byte Stories elsewhere and just enrolled them both in Kindle Select.
 
Without really doing any research I released Five Byte Stories for three of the five days just to see what would happen. In that time I was surprised how with no advertising at all Five Bytes was downloaded 400 times across all Amazon published countries, with the main concentration being in the US. Admittedly this peaked the second day and then levelled off on the third. Being quite pleased by this a month later I released it for the final two days. During this time I put into action a promotional plan of advertising it on twitter, websites and facebook groups like Pimping Indie.  My facebook account was duly locked for 30 days for spamming, (which made me very unhappy, especially as I couldn't figure out what alarm had been tripped and why other people seemed to be doing the same thing quite happily.) Anyway to cut a long story short in those two days five bytes was downloaded just 25 times. I came to the conclusion that my advertising was basically ineffective and all the downloaders from the first three days were the majority of the downloaders I was going to get.
 
30 Days later, with facebook unlocked, I tried again, this time with Threshold Shift. I was locked into Kindle Select anyway so figured I had nothing to lose. My sales of Threshold Shift were just about this side of abysmal anyway. Feeling a little blasé I didn't advertise the book on any websites prior to release. I did advertise heavily on twitter as I did previously during the second Five Byte campaign and when advertising on facebook I left out web addresses, which stopped me being locked out again. Thing unfurled very differently and over the five days, a Tuesday to Saturday, my book was downloaded a total of 1553 times, again mainly in the US but only just, the UK was very close behind.
 
I had decided after the awful second campaign that this time I would run the five days consecutively rather than splitting them up. I had the biggest push of downloads in Day 2, and overall during the entire period I peaked in the free charts with the following:
 
Day 3 of the Campaign:
 
US : 742
US Sci Fi: 19
US Sci-FI Act Adv : 11
US Act-Adv : 17
 
Day 4 of the Campaign:
 
UK: 136
UK Sc-Fi: 2
UK Sci-Fi Act Adv: 1
UK Act-Adv: 4
 
Overall Downloads for the entire five day campaign were the following:
 
US: 796
UK: 722
DE: 33
FR: 1
IT: 1
 
Without knowing how Amazon works I have no idea why I managed to get more success in the UK than in the US. The download quantities were very similar, but I obviously picked up a higher percentage of total free downloads in the UK than in the US by a considerable margin. I have no idea why, even though I am from the UK, my book isn't advertised as a UK book. During the campaign I noticed free sci-fi books that were below my ranking in the UK were well above me in the US.
 
I'm speculating it was down to factors like my blurb and cover which I thought were good but maybe just didn't appeal to US tastes and did to UK ones. I'm also speculating that UK tastes for Science Fiction books are also a little different. Threshold Shift has always been a strange mix of sci-fi and western. In the US I was seeing mainly Young Adult books, Zombie apocalyptic books or Space Opera books dominating the charts. The story wasn't quite the same in the UK, at least from my perspective. It's also interesting to note that the sales I have had since the campaign have been mostly in the UK.
 
So what happens now? Well it was interesting, and I note that both Five Byte Stories and Threshold Shift are now thoroughly embedded in Amazon 'Customers who bought this item also bought' science fiction lists which can only help sales. I also have a better, if still a confused idea, of how Amazon sales work.  As of this week I am not in Kindle Select anymore and am going through the stages of publishing on Smashwords, which will eventually expose my books to a wider audience. I definitely think Kindle Select wasn't a wasted opportunity and it did get my books downloaded around 2000 times between them. That's 2000 potential readers who may like the books and tell their friends. How can that hurt?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

I Want A Book To Take Me Somewhere

by Margo Fuke

“Too right.” I nodded vigorously when I saw that slogan in the library window. I thought of all the great books in my life. If reading is the mother of writing, perhaps if I analyse what they have given me, I'll be able to cure that blank computer page and WRITE.

I enjoy my life but I want, need, demand a thousand more. Why else would I have read a million books since I joined the library at the advanced age of three?

So where and who have I been?

“Hang about,” I hear you say. “A really good author can transform any everyday event into something amazing.” Agreed. Ray Bradbury takes a boy changing from his heavy winter shoes to his summer sneakers (trainers) and his whole world, and his place in it, is transformed as he runs, on featherlight feet into the newborn spring, bursting with life and wonder. And we are right there with him. But Bradbury also whisked me away to Mars – the start of a lifetime’s love affair with the unknown and exotic. I’ll never lose the thrill of seeing his majestic sand yachts sweeping across the vast red Martian deserts. Of course, I’ve got a season ticket to Mars. My first time was with Captain John Carter, Gentleman of Virginia, creation of Edgar Rice Burroughs of Tarzan fame, and sadly best known today for truly awful films. How I envied the Incomparable Dejah Thoris! Around the same time C S Lewis – without his wardrobe – abducted me from Much Nadderby; while on yet another trip I saved the world with Dan Dare, Doc and Lemmy. Great stuff.

I got my lifelong passion for magical creatures, and elves in particular, - and alternative Earths – straight from Tolkien. Later, I realised that his elves and hobbits, wearing different bodies, are much closer to our own values than many humans. Mordor can be anywhere – scary!

Michael Moorcock’s fierce elf-type, Elric, was the natural follow on. My first discovery that a ‘hero’ can be unburdened by fine ideals or love.

Time to move on and get my imagination pulling MY wagon.

I’ve travelled round the Earth (another story) and the Universe just to get back where I started – Mars. Fact not fiction and waiting to be written. The aptly named probe, Curiosity – I could tell it a tale or two – has boldly gone Out There to seek Truths, new and ancient.  Ice crystals and microbial life may not be as beautiful as sand yachts but who says they are not clues, more fascinating than The Da Vinci Code, waiting to blow away the really important questions – where we came from; where do we go next?

It's a real challenge.  You, gentle lady readers, currently earth-bound and besotted by a 100 year old immortal, no longer have to pretend to be men to get published. Will you be the ones to pick up Tolkien’s Torch?

Or perhaps it'll be me.

Next step? Quit reminiscing; pocket Hitch-hikers’ Guide and take off for A Year on Alpha Proxima. That should be long enough for a bestseller. Watch me fly!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Characterisation

by Beverly Townsend

Characterisation is the essential part of writing fiction. Building believable characters is one of the most skilful roles of an author. Whether they are from your past or present, friends or enemies they are the blocks that build a story.

“Without character there is no story. Characters are often the reason we read. As well as what the story is about, we want to know who the story is about....A good character always has some kind of internal conflict.” Julia Bell

·         Show them in action – showing them doing things (or not doing them!)

·         Give their exact words (direct speech), or their thoughts.

·         Show them in relationships with other people. How do they react to others? How do others react to them?

·         Describe physical appearance. You can’t put in every detail – choose details which are significant, and show individuality e.g. she was wearing a faded ten year old woolly jumper or he wore a Rolex watch. How much detail you give depends on the character and the pace of the story, and how much you want to leave to the imagination of the reader. Trust your readers to make assumptions.

·         Try to convey character through ‘pictures’, through things happening, rather than by explaining events ‘Show don’t tell.’

·         Remember conflict is quite basic to keeping your reader interested in your story – your characters have to be faced with problems that they find difficult to resolve.

Remember, the power to create and develop character is at the heart of all fictional writing.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Heart Search: Lost by Carlie M. A. Cullen

by Maria V A Johnson

The one advantage to having a group blog is the ability to share our achievements. With that in mind, I would love to shout from the rooftops the launch of Carlie’s first novel today; Heart Search: Lost.
 
This is an amazing book, a YA novel in the Paranormal Romance genre, and it has something for everyone. Her alpha reader doesn’t like vampire stories, but chose to read it twice; one of the male reviewers on her Blog Tour has never read a Paranormal Romance before, and he’s loving it. This book doesn’t just appeal to a small group of people (teenage girls), but to a wide range that normally wouldn’t touch this genre with a barge-pole.
 
I know you will all join with me in congratulating her on the publication of her first novel.




One bite starts it all . . .

When Joshua Grant vanishes days before his wedding his fiancée Remy is left with only bruises, scratch marks and a hastily written note. Heartbroken, she sets off alone to find him and begins a long journey where strange things begin to happen.

As Joshua descends into his new immortal life he indulges his thirst for blood and explores his superhuman strength and amazing new talents while becoming embroiled in coven politics which threaten to destroy him. But Remy discovers a strength of her own on her quest to bring Joshua home.

Fate toys with mortals and immortals alike, as two hearts torn apart by darkness face ordeals which test them to their limits.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Murdering People

by Carol Thomas

The novel I am working on at the moment is a thriller and I am at the editing stage. It didn’t start life as a thriller; it started out as a romance. I had an idea that I would have my hero and heroine meeting at a graveyard! They would both be mourning the loss of their partners who had died 6 months previously and would become friends. The story was meant to be about other people’s prejudices.

The story was buzzing round in my head for several weeks without a word being written. Then we went to visit my in-laws. I was in the conservatory with my story going round when it happened! My hero didn`t take to kindly to the heroine trying to stop seeing him. Then I realised he actually wanted to be a psychopathic stalker. These things happen sometimes!

So now I had this new version going round and I was really excited. I realised for him to murder people he might need help. Then a new character came along who is hidden and the reader doesn`t get to actually meet him. Then something insane happened and I realised this could be the main character for my sequel! I hadn`t even started writing the first one and my mind was trying to start working on the sequel.

I wrote the first draft frantically, and then put it away to rest while I worked on a different genre. I did take a long time to get back to editing the piece, which was good because I had loads of new ideas for it, so it has turned into more of a re-write than an edit.

The sequel I will hopefully work on for NaNoWriMo this year. I had better get planning!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Inspiration that was the Paralympics

by Aileen Kennedy

Whilst I knew that the Olympics would be fascinating to watch, I certainly wasn’t disappointed in the sport. I’m not a sporty girl, unless it has an engine and can go above 100mph.  Usually a couple of hours are all I can usually muster to watch any other sport, and if it’s on daily then I lose interest real easily. During the Olympics I was selective on the sports I watched. So I thought when the Paralympics came around that I might give channel 4 a passing glance, as I would be sported out by then. I was wrong, whilst the constant breaks were annoying as hell. I found myself fascinated by some of the sports, wheelchair rugby aka murderball, the visually impaired long jump, wheelchair racing, and even wheelchair tennis. Now don’t get me wrong, all the athletes are absolutely fantastic at what they do, I for one certainly couldn’t do it. It certainly showed off their ability.
 
So what does the Paralympics have to do with writing? Can you name me one book, which has a disabled lead character? No, didn’t think so.
 
Now there are children’s books, but nothing in young adults, new adults, or even adult reading books, without having to really dig for any, and I mean really dig. Why is this? Without looking into details, I can’t say the percentage of the world-disabled population. But I would have thought that a writer somewhere would have written a disabled character as a main character. Ok so there’s Bran in A Game of Thrones, and as I haven’t finished reading it I can’t say where George R Martin is leading with him. But Bran does seem to be taking a backstage in the epic novel so far, but he is not the main or the lead character in the book, just someone in the setting. Am I lead to believe that in the 21st Century, the disabled community is still being overlooked, surely these people will have fantastic stories that could be used as a plot line. Are we as a 21st Century society still hold that much ignorance of disability that we look down our noses at them? I would hate for that to be true.
 
So just where am I going with this? Whilst it can’t take one person to change the views of millions of people, and there are many ignorant people, who are unwilling to change in this world. The media does have a part to play; just look at the amount of coverage Channel 4 has given to the Paralympics. It’s been rumoured that the BBC wasn’t going to show half the amount that Channel 4 had planned when they put their bid in, and they’ve even upped the coverage after a couple of days. It seems a lot of people are interested in disabled sports.  So why aren’t there any leading disabled characters. Surely a writer can come up with a fantastic story, which can help change the view of one person.
 
I have to hold my hands up to say that out of all the rough stories I’ve written I haven’t written a character which has a disability, but then I could say that the stories themselves never called for one. But I doubt that is a good enough excuse; surely one can fit in somewhere and have a leading part. Hopefully now that I’ve realised this, I can place somewhere or write a story around a character. It would be nice.
 
Anyway that’s my small rant over with. Regardless of my opinions the Paralympics were exceptional show of sportsmanship, which showed off everyone’s abilities at the highest level. I for one will be keeping my eye out for Rio’s paralympics, and nation-wide disabled sports. As I’ve certainly enjoyed these Paralympics, alongside the Olympics. Even if I did get confused as hell regarding the different classifications, though I understand that it’s in place to ensure a level playing field.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Less Is More

by Kevin Cunnah

Cut!

The thing that all writers dread – having to reduce wordcount! I mean,
all those words, your carefully crafted words that convey a specific
nuance of meaning or emotion are there for a purpose, right? Taking
out even one of them is going to destroy the integrity of your piece
or mar it irreparably.

It doesn’t matter if the target wordcount is set at five thousand and
you’re at five and a half or it’s set at five hundred and you’re at
five hundred and fifty. It doesn’t matter if your editor asks you
really nicely and explains why the cuts have to be made – they just
don’t understand. How can they? This is your baby, your creation, in
all its glorious perfection.

Taking a knife to it is unthinkable.

Well, it is, isn’t it?

About six months ago I wrote a bunch of short stories for competition.
The wordcounts varied between a thousand and five thousand words and I
tried out a number of styles – it was one of those halcyon times when
the ideas just flowed. The stories were all written fairly quickly but
I edited them thoroughly (I thought), I had most of them beta read and
I edited them again before submission. I was pretty pleased with them
as one by one I sent them off.

And that was the last I heard.

Recently I went back and re-read them and you know what? They weren’t
bad at all (he says modestly). I thought they compared favourably with
the previous winning entries that I’d researched. Clearly the judges
of all those competitions had no taste.

Then I was stuck for a flash fiction piece for the group. Inspiration
had packed up and taken a vacation. Hmmm, I thought, maybe I could do
something with one of the competition pieces? One of them definitely
called to me. But it was just over fifteen hundred words long and my
target wordcount was eight hundred and fifty words, even with a ten
per cent overspill that only gave me nine hundred and thirty five
words to play with. Could I possibly shrink the story by thirty per
cent without ruining it?

Answer: yes.

It’s amazing the difference a few month’s perspective makes. That and
a ruthless evaluation of each word did the trick. If the word didn’t
advance the story it was out.

You know what? That story is now much tighter and more punchy and has
gained rather than lost from the pretty drastic reduction in
wordcount. Six months ago I would never have believed it and would
have argued (and from memory did) against changing or removing one
more word from the version I submitted. Now I have to admit I was
wrong.

I find flash fiction is a great discipline for the aspiring writer –
it forces you to consider the value of every last word rather than
measuring success by reaching wordcounts in the tens of thousands or
more. Clearly you need to write eighty or a hundred thousand words and
upwards to complete the average novel – but it’s always worthwhile,
having produced all those words in the right order, considering if
they are all really necessary.

Sometimes - and I suspect more frequently than most of us would like
to admit – less is more…

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Paralympic Writing

by Hellen Riebold

For some time now I have wanted to write a blog exploring the dichotomy of being a dyslexic writer; a subject dear to my heart, as anyone who’s ever tried to decipher one of my Christmas cards will tell you.
 
I have always told stories. As a child I would make up vivid tales about being a school prefect at the junior school which were so plausible my sister, who is five years younger than me, was devastated when she arrived there herself to discover the ‘government bunker’ on the roof was merely a skylight into the hall.
 
As I got older the story telling took on a more destructive form and I was perennially in trouble for telling lies until one day, in my first year at senior school, Mrs Wright, my English teacher, kept me behind after class.
 
“Hellen,” she said, to start a sentence I have never forgotten, “you are a great story-teller. If you write the stories down as fiction instead of telling them as lies you’ll get on much better in life.”
 
I took that advice to heart. I wrote endlessly, making book after book from any scraps of paper I could beg from my Dad.
 
But that’s when the dyslexia really started to cripple me.  My writing speed was so slow that often my brain raced ahead as I panted along behind, desperately trying to hold on to an eel of an idea whilst endlessly tripping over simple words.
 
My Mum, seeing my struggle with the pen, did something I hated at the time but which I now consider as the greatest act of kindness I have ever encountered, at age 13 she sent me to evening classes to learn how to type. It didn’t help with my spelling but it did free me from the pen and my typing speed very quickly overtook my writing speed much like a leopard would overtake a snail.
 
I now had a hope of keeping up with my ideas but even though I became a dab hand with the Tipex my work was littered with spelling mistakes and gobbledegook . My typing teacher, who thought she was preparing me for office life, used to shout at me endlessly to check the spelling if a word looked wrong and I endlessly assured her I would just as soon as one did. We did not get on still, somehow, I passed the exams and my typing speed eventually caught up with my brain but I still couldn’t spell so I knew I’d never be a real writer.
 
Then came a little miracle. Well a pretty big one really. Someone invented the PC and Bill Gates wrote a programme that checked your spelling as you typed, put a little red wiggly line under the offending word and even helped you to find out what it should really look like. I was released! I saved and saved and saved until one of these little miracles could finally come home with me. Now I can write to my heart’s content secure in the knowledge that eventually people will be able to read what I’ve written and only laugh if they’re meant to.
 
I love writing, it gives me huge pleasure and it is something I know I can do. I do wonder, however, how many other writers there are out there with J R R Tolkien’s imagination trapped by dyslexic hands? It’s a bit like the wonderful Paralympic athletes, they have the necessary drive, talent and determination to get the job done they just need the right equipment to show the world what they’re made of.

And a wonderful friend to fix the mistakes the spell-checker doesn't find will also help! (Though you only had 2 of those)

Monday, September 3, 2012

Rejection

by Anna Buttimore

A couple of years ago a friend asked for advice on writing and publishing his book. I told him all I knew (not much) and wished him luck. And a few months ago he gleefully posted on Facebook that he was now a published author. How I rejoiced as I followed the link to his masterpiece. How my heart sank when I saw "Authorhouse" across the top bar on my screen.

I asked him, in that wheedling way of mine, "Why?" Why did he give up? Why did he fund the publication of his book himself, and forego any possibility of profit or royalties, not to mention any sense of achievement, affirmation or accomplishment?

"I got fed up with being rejected," he replied.

As much as you are warned that rejection is part and parcel of being an author, it still smarts. I'm fed up with being rejected. Emon and the Emperor has now been rejected by eighteen agents.

Agents are well aware that choosing whether or not to represent an author is entirely an arbitrary business and that they daily run the risk of turning down the next Harry Potter or Twilight, or indeed accepting the next embarrassing flop. Contrary to popular opinion they are not kicking themselves over the ones that got away.  They know that there are some great books slipping through their fingers just because they are not really in the mood for them that day. They accept that as an occupational hazard with every rejection slip they send out.

Almost all books get rejected before they are published.

·         Jonathan Livingstone Seagull was rejected 18 times and went on to sell a million copies in its first year and become a cult classic.

·         Chicken Soup for the Soul was rejected 140 times but has since sold more than 80 million copies in 37 languages, and spawned numerous extra versions.

·         Dubliners by James Joyce - yes, James Joyce - was rejected 22 times, and even when it was finally accepted only 1250 copies were printed.

·         After Carrie had been rejected 30 times, Stephen King threw it out. His wife retrieved it from the bin and persuaded him to keep trying. It has now become a horror classic and has been adapted for film and television.

·         Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was rejected 12 times, and only accepted by Bloomsbury because the CEO's eight-year-old daughter read it and insisted her father publish it.

I'm fed up with being rejected. But I believe in my book. So each time I get a rejection letter - or email - I just send it to the next agent in the list. Going to Authorhouse or similar would mean I had rejected my own book.  So I'll keep welcoming each rejection as a step closer to acceptance.

This is a subject a lot of authors will know a lot about Anna. I must say though, that your facts will provide inspiration for authors waiting for that eventual acceptance letter.

Monday, August 27, 2012

What Is Your Blog FOR?

by Michelle Cunnah

This is a question I asked myself when I first began to blog.
 
Did I want to share my writerly experiences? Well, there were already a lot of very good authors doing that.
 
Did I want to give advice on different aspects of the writing process? Well, there were already a lot of very good authors doing that, too.
 
So I decided that I would use my blog to poke gentle fun at myself. I always seem to experience problems with red tape and travelling, and generally getting thwarted all over the place, so I had plenty of material to use. But mostly I want to (hopefully) entertain my readers between books.
 
Here’s one from my recent archives.
 

And Then I Got Hauled Off To Jail!
 
No, not really. But I might have. It’s a possibility. With my kind of luck. Even though Oh Patient One is currently rolling on the floor laughing at me and telling me that I am being melodramatic. Even if it is in a good kind of way.
 
He wasn’t laughing this time on Wednesday, I can tell you. Neither was I. Because this time on Wednesday we were traveling back from our Rotterdam apartment to the UK so, of course, we had Trouble With Travel. This is what happened. . .
 
We arrived at Rotterdam central station. Oh Patient One went to a ticket machine to get his ticket, I went to another machine to get mine. And as I was counting out my change and feeding it into the machine (these machines only take coins), Oh Patient One startled me.
 
Oh Patient One: “Michelle, what are you doing? I already got you a ticket with my Dutch debit card.”
 
Me: “You did?”
 
Oh Patient One: “Yes. Come on. We’re going to miss our train.”
 
(And this from the man who half an hour earlier had asked me why I had my coat on ready to leave our apartment, we had loads of time to catch our train.)
 
So I pressed the cancel key, retrieved my Euros from the machine, and when I looked around. . . Oh Patient One had disappeared. I headed for the platform from which the Amsterdam Schiphol train was departing and couldn’t see him. The fact that it was rush hour had something to do with this, I think, but I didn’t want to risk not having a ticket (Oh Patient One had both tickets) and not being able to find Oh Patient One on the train. So I headed back down the stairs from the platform to the main station area. Still no sign of Oh Patient One. And I couldn’t call him on my cell phone because my smart phone doesn’t work outside the UK. But no problem. I would hang around for a few minutes, then if I didn’t find Oh Patient One I would just buy another ticket and get the next train to Schiphol.
 
A few seconds later Oh Patient One appeared.
 
Oh Patient One: “There you are. What happened to you?”
 
Me: “Nothing happened to me. You forgot to look to see if I was with you and you left me.”
 
Oh Patient One: “Well, I assumed you’d know which platform I was heading for. Anyway, we’ve missed that train, there’s another one from this platform.”
 
We climbed the steps to another platform, got on the train which said ‘Amsterdam’ on the front, and found some seats. Oh Patient One rooted in his pockets for the train tickets. Now, people have a tendency to leave their receipts in the ticket machine dispensers, and the receipts look a lot like actual train tickets. And what Oh Patient One had picked out of the ticket dispenser was one ticket to Schiphol and one receipt belonging to a complete stranger.
 
So, basically I had no train ticket. From nearly having two tickets I had nada, and what would happen when the ticket inspector came through our carriage? Would I get arrested? Would I have to pay a huge fine? I sat and sulked for a bit.
 
And then I noticed that our train was stopping at places it should not stop at. Oh Patient One noticed this at about the same time, and we looked at each other.
 
Oh Patient One and Me (simultaneously): “We’re on the wrong bloody train, aren’t we?”
 
Yes, we were. I do not know how we managed this. We have made this same journey so many times, we should know which trains to climb on. Or not. Fortunately for us the next stop was Den Haag, or The Hague, home of the international criminal court (and would it feature me very soon for my lack of ticket?). When I say fortunately for us, this is because the Schiphol trains also depart from this station. Also, if I could only get down to the ticket hall without a ticket inspector accosting me I would be able to purchase a ticket and not be traveling illegally.
 
Got off the train, went down to the ticket hall, got a new ticket. Not a ticket inspector in sight. Whew.
 
And then we got a train to Schiphol no problem, got our plane from Schiphol to London Stansted no problem. Apart from the fact that the flight was full and I ended up sitting next to a guy who thought the shared arm rest was his exclusive property.
 
It was only as we climbed onto the bus which would transport us back to the town where we live that I realized that I didn’t have enough English money to pay for my fare. Fortunately for me Oh Patient One did. J

A hilarious tale Michelle, though I'm sure many of us are glad we aren't you!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Inspiration


‘There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly; sometimes it's like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges’. -- Ernest Hemingway
What’s the hardest and most desired thing for a writer? I sit and ask myself.  

Clearly having a little something to say and make it sound interesting. Correct?  Most of us can develop our writing skills, techniques, grammar and even improve our vocabulary.  We can be passionate about writing but can we learn to ‘inspire’ ourselves? And that’s what’s essential for all of us ‘artists’: Divine Inspiration.
We live in a demanding society where a lot is expected from us. We want for things to happen fast and exactly as they’re ‘supposed’ to be. But inspiration is something you can’t force or ‘make happen’. We think we have it all figured out; when and how it should happen and constantly with a deadline but sadly that’s not how inspiration works.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we just sat down and words simply flew perfectly by themselves? For some of us ‘Late evening’ people a good idea hit’s us in the dark hours and as we grow older and memory seems to ‘desert’ us post it notes come to the rescue. Post it notes; what would the world do without them? Stacked on top of each other, suggesting a line or a new story. Sometimes all I see around me is bright pink and yellow little sticky papers covering what used to once be picture frames, a lamp or the living room window.
One thing is beyond shadow of a doubt: Our memories won’t always be there to accompany us to our older days, so we can’t risk losing them.

Regardless how old fashioned it may appear; carrying around a note pad to ensure it’s all jotted down is a safe option. At times it feels as if the thoughts, ideas and different scenarios are racing through our minds like a Ferrari on top speed, quicker than they could ever be scribbled down on a piece of paper. It’s Sod’s law however that a pencil won’t be handy at that precise moment or that the only pen available won’t be working no matter how much you give it a gentle blow or you force it to write!
Where is the best place to burst those brilliant ideas when they finally appear and there is no time to waste? Inspiration just like writing requires concentration and sometimes isolation; but this last one is debatable. As we live in a very modern world with constant distraction that would be highly unlikable for most of us. In fact inspiration can come in loud cafes for some as much as writing in a wicker chair by the sea could work for others.

Personally the ultimate place I find inspiration in is my flat. Besides the awful feeling of being in solitary confinement, even at the quietest moments the distraction of the washing that needs to be done, or the toys that have been left on the living room floor won’t allow me to sit there and think. In the back of my head the thought of how much tidying up and housework needs to be done is a constant reminder. It’s so much easier to simply shut the door behind me leaving the mess for the ‘Magic Cleaning Fairy’ to tidy up. Meanwhile I attempt to get inspired with a jogging session or inside a loud cafe; preferably without interruptions.
Shower is definitely an inspirational location. There should be a scientific reasoning and I hope one day someone can explain it to me as this place seems to work for lots of different artists! Whether it’s a hot bubble bath or a warm shower, throw in a little tune too and it will certainly pay off.  Now you’re clean, happy and inspired!  Whoever came up with the waterproof iPod idea is a true inventor but that’s not the last of the brilliant technology for inspiration in the shower. The coolest invention yet is a waterproof pad and pencil that will enable those flowing thoughts and brilliant ideas not to go down the drain. Who says gadgets are only for geeks?

When the ideas come down like a summery rain storm, talk aloud to yourself. Don’t simply listen to the little voice inside your head but actually slip those thoughts out your mouth. Shut your eyes and visualize the scene. Saying it out loud helps us sound more ‘human like’ and creates a more realistic scene. Inspiration is about being able to shape an idea. Perhaps it sounds silly but performing this ‘act’ will reaffirm whether the little voice inside your head was right!  
Finally the most significant bit of inspiration is to not give up hope. Despite the fact that some days the hope of a brilliant idea simply isn’t an option, not quitting is essential. Inspiration is about doing things a little differently. Listen to a song, go for a run or go to the movies by yourself.  Do something different on a regular basis so that routine doesn’t bore you or rule your life.

And like Lewis Carroll once said: ‘Always speak the truth, think before you speak, and write it down afterwards’.
Love it Addi! So guys? How do you find your inspiration?